welcome to a special hour of al jazeera. it all began 50 years ago with president lindon johnson. some say there's been no improvement since then, others say the battles have been won, but the war itself continues. we will bring you stories from around the country from people who tackled this issue each and every day, despite the new policies that stem from that landmark speech. also in just a few moments he hear from the president who is set to unveil the first of five areas that he is calling
promise zones. we will bring that you live when it happens. now the five regions the president is focusing on are south eastern kentucky, san antonio, philadelphia, los angeles, and the nation of oklahoma which is an american inian tribe. the new initiative coming as they look back at the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. it began with a speech by president lindon johnson. mark snyder looks back. >> and this is demonstration today. declares unconditional war on poverty in america. >> the speech came less than two months after the assassination our aim is to relieve the symptom of poverty. but decure it. above all.
to prevent it. >> poverty had been a major concern of president kennedy, and with the country still grieving and almost one in five americans living in poverty, johnson declared war on poverty. university of texas and dallas professor wrote a book about how poverty can undermine the viability of the united states. he says johnson's war on poverty speech is one of his best, and the timing was perfect. he realize that he is not going to be a loved president, therefore, it's much easier to continue the line of a president that was more than admired. he was loved and whatever, and take his agenda and make it yours. all the time making sure that you give enough credit to the pen. let us cowerry forward the plans and the programs of john fitzgerald kennedy.
not because of our sorrow, and sympathy, but because they are right. >> to help convince congress, johnson took his plan to the people, known as poverty tours i don't think sob went to see the poorest of the poor, in places like the mountains of west virginia. it has helped push the legislation, and every time you play this little theatrics you are going to have success. five years after the law passed poverty dropped from 20% to around 11%, today, it's back around 15%. that's more than 46 million americans. >> the richest nation on earth, can afford to win it. we cannot afford to lose it. the world's poverty is
yet another war that we are not winning. we cannot win the war on poverty for anyone else. those were effected by poverty, can be empowered in order to get out from this condition. professor nadine says he believed president johnson has the best intentions and the war on poverty had an impact, just not the impact the country was hoping for. trillions of tax dollars poverty persists. mark snyder, al jazeera, dallas. >> take a look at this graft that's 1967, 2012. the poverty rate barrelly moving over the last few decades. 50 years ago it was at 19%, it is 15% today, but 46 million americans are still here trapped inside the poverty rate. the people show that it is the elderly that are
benefits the most. less than 10% of seniors are living below the poverty line. but those same critics argue on this number, they say it may just be easier to write a check, americans spend $1 trillion each and every year fighting the war on poverty. that boils down to roughly $20,000 for each and every person. they say it may just be easier to write a check. we are waiting word from president obama, and we will bring you that event to you live as it happens. in the meantime we have reporters that are stationed in two of the regions that will be impacted. our jonathan martin is standing by. but we begin with heidi joe castro in san antonio, lady? >> hey, dale, i am in one of the poorest urban communities in the nation. this is called east side san antonio, as yo can
see there are buildings that have been leveled and slots like this all over the community, that is only for about three miles three square miles wide. let me give you some of the statistics here. 40% of adults here do not have a high school diploma, and the unemployment rate here is regularly twice the national average. earlier i was invited into the home of one of the residents, she is a single mother of three, who work as paramedic time job to support her three children, her two parents and her sick aunt. and this is what she said about that struggle. it getsing to difficult. the challenges and the challenges of putting food on the table for kids. anything they may need for school, it can be difficult.
it won't be any sort of magic bullet to lift this area out of poverty, but they are hoping it will nudge them in the right direction. it is noseble no money comes directly from the federal government to this zone. rather this designate allows this area to have priority consideration for future federal grants and the key thing here, is they are hoping to get tax credits to businesses moving and invest in this community the very key thing here is that has yet to be approved. >> how do beam where you are feel being singled out as one of the five places that need this help. >> the people i have spoken to they are used to this kind of attention. that community was also the recipient of a different federal award,
that one coming from the department of education. i am told that has made the impact here. that's been more after school programs funded by those grants as well as a new health medical high school that's been lures hire. and is now helping students. >> joining us live, heidi, thank you very much. jonathan why this particular area? >> that's right. it is pretty tough here, and the sad thing about this part of kentucky is that it is an area that has seen such a downturn in the industry, the coal mining industry, and things aren't getting any better. if you look behind me, you can see businesses boarded up and closed. that is what you see around a lot of here, when you start looking at the numbers it is one of the poorest counties.
and 30 to 40% of the people depending on what numbers you look at are living below the poverty line. so many people here made a living off the coal mines many of them have closed. mime who were making 70 or 80,000 dollars are now wondering what are we going to do. we talked to one happen who also used to work for the coal mine, that said there isn't much of a future here. >> what jobs are here is minimum wage and stuff. there's nothing here young persons got no business staying here. no business at all. i don't see things getting better. >> so really what this designation will do, at least for this part of south eastern kentucky which includes an eight county region, there will be a $1.3 million small
business loan initiative into this area, to get these business that is are closed or currently in existence, getting them back on their feet. and getting them running again, there also is a small community college in this area. and part of this initiative will get some of these programs better trained, get more training and get them better skilled workers. really just to enhance the people around here and diverse fighter the economy, because as i mentioned really for so long for so many generations coal mining has been really the life blood for this place. >> jonathan i grew up in one of those coal mining town and there's always been a perception that government is talking to them, but not listening to them, do you get the feeling this time they feel differently? >> well, good question, because i just talked to a county executive, and he said you know we have heard this before, we have heard we are going to get help, but what we
really want is industry. we want the incentives we want the leg up, but we want industries to come in here and employ these people that are layed off, so they said that will be the test as to whether something is happening here. whether they see these industries come in here, so that's the feeling from the folks here. >> jonathan martin joining us live, thank you very much. now, new orleans nonon the list of a lot of low income families just trying to make ends meet. robert bring us up to date? demolished like so many others around the city. a lot of people that used to live in here for so many years are now
dwelling in mixed income developments. let me give you the staggers number here. 65% of black children under the age of five here in the city live under the poverty level. now many different mothers and fathers that are raising the kids are working very hard right now to try to get out of poverty and make a better life for their kids. >> meet singling mother april white. she is 33 years old, has three kids and is studying to become a paralegal. she is also working a part time job, and making considerably less than the poverty line. nothing comes easy. >> being poor is a term she doesn't want her kids to grow up with. you know, the main thing i preach, of course, is education.
and perseverance in whatever you do. you take a bad situation and you make it good. >> mass exactly what she is trying to do, but since 2000 the number of poor children in america has increased nearbily 35%. that's over 16 million kids nationwide. as the war on poverty continues in metropolitan areas you can see the remain innocence of projects once bid years ago, holding families and children are now being attorney down, this one in new orleans, this courtyard just a few years ago, many children out here playing not a safe place, as it is ridden with gangs, and violence. one of the highest rates in america. kathryn grew up in child poverty. today she runs the
harmony developement, a nonprofit empowering the poor, with finance usual consulting and the building of new mixed income homes and house projects once stood. the biggest thing is having access to information, having access to quality products, quality foods. you find a lot of poor kids are obese, and things like that because they can't afford healthy food. >> it is called food and security. and the most recent data released by the u.s. department of agriculture reveals that over 25 of african-american households don't have access to proper nutrition. and that's just one of the challenges of child poverty. >> we hear more and more about murders every day, and it amazing me that those suspects are many teenagers. >> with little or no structure, some kids living in poverty join gangs and fall into life on the street. >> it has to be individual whose are willing to work with
these kids and who are committed to helping these kids make a difference. otherwise, we are continually going to have more young people in jail. >> for april white and her three children, they count their blessings each day. happy to have a roof over their heads and food on the table. >> but a lot of people, even employed it's hard to make ends meet, with the money you are making working all day. >> white and many others living below the poverty line, the belief that raising the minimum wage could help take their children out from the bellows of being poor, is as real as every day life with little or no money. robert ray, al jazeera new orleans. >> so you can see this project here, the fence a place that april write grew up in. a woman in our story, she was an pant to us throughout the story the shooting of this, that minimum wage is a major problem for her, and many
other people that she knows here. that they try to work hard, they try to get out of the depths of poverty, be tough cycle continues because they seem like they can't make enough to get out of and it get a better life. >> but there has to be more to it. i am struck by something you said, the child poverty rate exactly the same as it was 50 years ago when the war on poverty began. how is that possible? >> yeah, it is staggers and it is a blaring statistic that doesn't make really any since when you think about it. if we are fighting to get people out of poverty how is it the same? well, if you talk to the people that used to live in these -- even in places like chicago it keeps coming back to this, we with don't have information, we don't have resources to get out of the cycle.
can you imagine, we are all privileged to be in good situations but can you imagine being in the rut of being poor your entire life, and looking at it through a window and say i want to get out of this, it is a near impossible task, but i can tell you the people in new orleans, and across the south, many of them are very positive about this, and looking for better years ahead. and i hope that is the case for them. robert, thank you very much, well put. >> we are still awaiting word from president obama he is set to speak on his new plan to challenge the war on poverty, changing things like crime and poverty and education. we will bring you that event life from the white house we will also go to washington when we come back, to talk to our white house correspondent for his perspective. stay with us.
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concerning america's war on poverty. we here at al jazeera america dedicating the entire hour to this specific topic. it all began 50 years ago when lindon james johnson declared the war on poverty. some say things have gotten better others say things have gotten worse. the president is going to highlight five states. they will be focused on south eastern kentucky, san antonio texas, philadelphia, pennsylvania, los angeles, california, and the nation of oklahoma, which is an american indian tribe. we have been glymph the two minute warning from the white house the president is coming in right now. as you can see the members of those representatives of all of those states and cities that would be effected. the president saying he wants to focus on education, crime, many of the schools there consider to be
substandard. many say that the crime situation is also tied to education situation, which is tied to the poverty situation. mike, i know you were watching and listens give us your take and understand if i have to cut you off it is because the president has come into the room. >> it would point the first time. it is the holistic approach that the president wants to take. there will be 15 more throughout the course of the next several month that the president will be outlining. what they are proposing to do is streamline red tape, offer tax credits enter into partnerships with some of the largest employers in each city or region, that they have chosen in this initial round -- >> i will have to do what i do so many times unfortunately to you, i have to cut you off, thises the president of the united states, he is about to address one of his first major initiatives of the year, and the second term, his promise zones trying to
change things the way they are in five states across the united states. this is the president of the ice. i was bourn and raised in harlem, and have been here since i was four years old. my mom and grandmother were both born in the dominican republic, and they tell me every day that education is the only thing that is going to get you somewhere. the promise academy has been a great school. when our holiday break was ending i was excited about going back to school. that's because the teachers are grade may actually like their job, and they are happy to be with us. i love that we are earn willing so much, it has given me so many opportunities such as performing with the fours of nature dance company. the school makes sure we are doing well in every way. we get healthy meals and
have a health center for when we are not feeling well. we go on trips to see potential colleges and i am already taking classes to help me get good scores on my psats. i used to want to be a veterinarian, now i'm thinking about maybe a lawyer, because i love law and order, but either way, i know i am going to college. i also want to. [applause] i want to make her happy, and know she raise add good girl. some kids don't have the opportunities i have had. our school was built right in the middle of the saint nick louse house projects. i think it send as powerful message who might be messing up or dropped out. that school can be exciting and safe.
i hope the country will create more places like the harlem children zone, so other neighborhoods can help their kids success in every -- in school, go to college, and get better jobs. i feel so honored to have the opportunity to meet my president. who has shown how much he cares. who has shown how much he cares about kids like me, where we come from, what we want to be in life and that mr. obama is really going to make sure we get there. now, on behalf of the students and staff, of the harlem children's zone, it is my pleasure, to introduce the president of the united states. barack obama. [applause] good job. >> thank you. >> everybody have a seat. >> well, welcome to the
white house, everybody, and that was one of the breast introductions i have ever had. so we are so proud officer yeah rah for the introduction, and sharing her story. and just so poised, and i know jeff is just out this all excited. and proud and i know your mom is proud, i know she is, she should be. kiara and the rest of these young people grew up in a 97 square block section of harlem. as a mace where the odds were stacked against them every single day. even just graduating from high school was a challenge. be uh with the help of some very dedicated adults, and a program called the harlems children's zone. they are right on track to go to college. together, students, teachers, administrators,
community, they are changing the odds in this neighborhood. that's what we are here to talk about today. so no matter who they are, no matter where they are born, they have a chance to succeed in today's economy. now the good news is that thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of the american people, recall across the country, our economy has grown stronger. our businesses are now created more than 8 million new jobs. since the depths of the reception, our manufacturing, our housing sectors are rebounding, our energy and technology and auto industries are booming. we have to keep our economy growing, behave to make sure that everybody is sharing in that growth. we have to create jobs, and then we have to make sure that wages and benefits are such that families can rebuild a
little bit of security. we have to make sure this recovery, which is real, leaves nobody behind. that's going to be my focus throughout the year. this is going to be a year of action. that's what the men people expect, and they are ready and willing to pitch in and help. this is a job for everybody. working people are looking for the kind of stable secure jobs that too often went overseas. so next week i will join companies and colleges and take action to boost hi-tech the time that attracts good knew jobs and helps grow a middle class. business onliers are ready to play their part, so this month i will host ceos here at the white house, not once, but twice, first to lay out specific steps. second committerments we are making to put more of
the long term unemployed back to work. and on january 28th in my state of the union address, which i want all the legislatures to know i will try to keep shorter than usual. they are cheering violently. i will mobilize the country around the national position of making sure our economy ensures everyone who works hard a fair shot at success. everybody in this country who works hard should have a fair shot at success, period. doesn't matter where they come from, what they look like, what their last name is, they should be able to succeed. obviously we are coming off a ran krause political year. but i genuinely believe that this is not a partisan issue. when you talk to the american people you know that people working in soup kitchens and people who are mentoring and
people who are starting small businesses and hiring their neighbors, and very rarely are they checking are their dome or republicans. the sense of neighborhoodliness that is inherit. we just have to tap into it. y been very happy to see republicans like rand paul who are ready to engage in this debate. that's a good thing. we have democratic and republican elected officials across the country, who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, and this should be a challenge that united us all. i don't care whether the ideas are republican or democrat, i do care that they work. i do care that they are subject to evaluation, and we can see if we are using tack dollars in a certain way, if we are starting a certain program, i want to make sure that young people are benefiting from it.
it's one something to say we should help more americans get ahead. but talk is cheap. we have to make sure that we do it. and i will work with anybody, who is willing to lay out some concrete ideas to ecreate jobs help more middle class families find security, and offer new ladders of opportunity for folks to climb into the middle class. personally i hope we start by listening to a majority of the american people. supporting their families while they look for a new job. i hope their colleagues in the house will join them to set this right. today i want to talk about something very particular a specific example. we are here with leaders who are determined to change the odds the way these kids and their parents